The best Slack bots for remote teams

Originally published to the International Association of Business Communicators’ Catalyst blog.

I’ve been working remotely for longer than I care to remember. One thing I have always missed is the randomness of office life. You just never know who you’ll run into in the kitchen or which new connection might be waiting for you around the corner.

For content creators and brand journalists, that type of serendipity brings with it not just story ideas but relationships that connect you more deeply to the organization.

So, after years of living in Slack, a free application for team communication and collaboration, I suppose I’m just as comfortable there as anywhere else. Which is why, when I recently started an EMBA (virtual of course), the first thing I did was install Snack, a Slack app that randomly connects colleagues for a conversation.

These apps do one thing really well: they bring back the random magic that is networking. Although nothing quite replaces waiting in line for a drink at an open bar at a networking mixer, this comes close! Just like waiting in line, you are randomly paired with someone to chat with. It enhances connections and builds organic bonds between teammates (and strangers, in the case of my EMBA classmates).

I’ve always enjoyed Slack apps as a way to infuse that serendipity into the sameness of our remote lives. I’ve tried more than I’d like to admit. Here are a few that I recommend. Give them a shot and see what happens — you just never know what will come of these random interactions.

One tip: like any other tool, adoption is a challenge. You must lead by example and be an advocate for participation; otherwise, these will be the latest discards on top of the tool graveyard.


Snack brings together random teammates for virtual icebreakers and “get to know you” games. The app prompts each participant at preset intervals, asking if they are available to take a “snack break.” Those who say yes are brought into a breakout room to chat, and a prompt starts the conversation. Free plans can have five-minute snack breaks on a single channel, while paid versions can add snack breaks to unlimited numbers of channels and set their own snack break time limits.


Donut takes connectedness to a new level. It not only randomly pairs colleagues for virtual coffees, but it also expands into peer learning, diversity and inclusion, mentorship, onboarding and other unique ways to build community and culture.

Donut calls these deeper conversations “connection programs,” a clever and refreshing way to nurture deeper connections among colleagues. Rather than a single interaction, the connectedness extends over time and becomes a core part of the company’s communication culture.

Random Coffees

Random Coffees is a Slack app that connects two different colleagues together each week via direct message. They can choose how to connect: over coffee, during a walk or whichever way works best for them. If you’re looking for a simple tool to facilitate virtual coffees, this is the one. It’s unfussy and easy to set up. The name is clear and the price is right: it’s free.


Hallway is meant to replace, well, the company hallway! The true spontaneity of the workplace often lies in the randomness of running into people as you walk to and from meetings, head out to lunch or come and go from your desk. Those types of interactions are replicated in this app, which encourages people to take a short break with co-workers.

Hallway is less scheduled than some of the other apps, which can make it feel less like another thing to do on the schedule and more like an actual break. I like Hallway because it’s similar to how office workers can take stock of their current productivity and decide to leave their desks for a little office walkabout. It’s a neat tool that really does provide a much-needed dose of socialization for those feeling disconnected during a long day of working from home.


Karma is a bit different than the other apps listed here. That’s because it’s not just about keeping those connections, but also building a culture of gratitude. It gives teams a way to show appreciation and acknowledge excellence. The “Karma bot” makes it easy for people to give micro-feedback and say thanks to one another.

Employees earn karma points, which can then be redeemed for real-world perks. You can set up those perks to be anything you’d like to incentivize your team in ways that fit your company culture. The disconnect between remote work and feedback is quite real. Reduce the isolation that comes from working alone by leveraging tools to show gratitude — it’s a major human motivation.


While we’re on the topic of recognizing colleagues as a means of connectedness, consider HeyTaco. If your culture is more playful, the mustached taco logo should give you a clear indicator that this app is for you.

The app is super simple and (unsurprisingly) uses the taco emoji as its main currency. Any time someone adds a taco to a message, it’s a sign of appreciation and also contributes to a leaderboard. Everyone can see who has earned the most tacos, adding a satisfying gamification element that is low-pressure and fun. Tacos also can be redeemed for rewards, which gives companies a way to craft incentives that work best for their specific workers.


You may also want to encourage your remote teams to check out privacy tools, such as these privacy apps for iOS and these privacy apps for Android. Remote workers are at risk of being hacked so privacy is especially vital during #WorkFromHome.

7 powerful tools to manage your editorial calendar effectively

An editorial calendar is essential for successful brand journalism.

Surprisingly, this foundational element is missing from many brand marketing strategies. The desire to hit the ground running often overwhelms the practical utility of planning.

But without a place to brainstorm, and then prioritize those ideas, many brand journalism efforts are doomed from the start.

Regardless of the size of your business, a managed process for content creation helps maintain sanity. The best tools for managing editorial calendars move beyond just a calendar view. At the most basic, a good tool should:

  1. Make it easy to collect ideas for potential content topics.
  2. Track the sattus of a piece of content from conception to publication.
  3. Easily assign and track who is writing which piece of content.
  4. Act as an archive for all content generation activities.
  5. Offer deep customization to embed structured processes for each stage of the content lifecycle.
  6. Work just as well on mobile as on desktop.

After years of testing different strategies, here are seven powerful tools to manage your editorial calendar effectively. Each option is a solid choice, and it really comes down to personal preferences.

Our recommendation is to try each tool for a set period of time to see how it works for your organization. Test the desktop experience as well as the mobile experience. If you can’t use it in a real world situation, try to replicate the conditions of use.

This gives you the clearest idea of how much the tool addresses your needs. A small experiment is a worthwhile investment that gives you the confidence you need to make this important decision.

You want to make the best decision you can up front, before pulling in the rest of the moving parts!

#1: Trello

This is our favorite tool for managing editorial calendars. Trello is versatile with plenty of add-ons to customize functionality as needed. It’s simple to set-up, and relatively intuitive when bringing in new people. Nothing can beat the Post-It note simplicity of the interface.

In the image below, you’ll see how we track content from the idea stage to client review. In our case, we have a significant review process as content goes through client review.

We also have multiple pieces of content in progress at any given time, generally based on our editorial sensibility matched with client priorities. By prioritizing certain pieces, We bubble up the most impactful story ideas into the content creation workflow.

What we like: The cost is reasonable, and Trello’s automations improve workflow. While there are additional costs involved with certain add-ons, these integrations provide customization for a variety of workflows — Trello can be used for almost any type of project or tracker. For traditional project managers familiar with Gantt charts, Trello add-ons transform boards into charts. We also like the ability to change backgrounds and use an image to reflect the content of the board!

#2: CoSchedule

CoSchedule is a full-featured marketing tool and content planner. As such, it’s a little more complicated to get started. The service integrates with social media, which means that you can see a full marketing view alongside your upcoming content features. This integrated view can be highly useful for brand marketers.

As you browse the calendar, you can create content types and even begin to write articles right there in the flow. This can be useful when wanting to provide an outline or light structure for a particular article and then assign to someone on your team.

Admins can assign tasks, and even make it so approval is required for task completion. This granular approval process is appealing for larger organizations or situations with lots of contributors that need more monitoring.

For those managing multiple calendars, for example, several client blogs or departments across the company, CoSchedule really shines. It has the potential to be the core of all marketing planning, content creation, and social media management. For those looking for something a bit more simple, CoSchedule might be too much.

What we like: The direct integration with WordPress makes this a powerful tool to manage both the editorial calendar and social media distribution. While more complex visually than Trello, the beauty is that CoSchedule reminds you to also create a marketing plan for your content. And when it’s integrated within your blog flow, it can ensure that everyone is using the same process through tasks and team communications.

#3: Airtable

Think of AirTable as a massive evolution to the spreadsheet. It’s endlessly customizable for all kinds of different uses. This is an advantage, as it makes for a versatile tool.

Some might not like the spreadsheet-like approach, and others might find it more comfortable. Airtable offers different views, such as kanban and calendar, which appeals to both the creative and the rational.

One of the useful parts of Airtable is the way that they build out ‘bases’ of content. These are basically connected spreadsheets, where individual records are sorted and tracked. From these bases, you can then push out pieces of content across different workflows.

This means that changing the status of one item can trigger a move to another view. For example, a piece of completed content could be pushed into the view for the social media manager.

What we like: Airtable takes some getting used to. But it does offer the most customizability out of all the tools listed here, without the need to integrate add-ons to build out the features you need. This makes it good for complex workflows across multiple stakeholders. It’s very versatile, and workflows can be customized for each client as needed. That’s a huge advantage if you’re looking to evolve productivity in your business operation. The free plan is also a smart move to get users hooked before having to shell out cash!

#4: Monday

Monday is kind of like a blend of Trello and Airtable. It offers more features out of the gate, without having to enable add-ons for more functionality. Content can be viewed by status, person, or date, as well as on a timeline overview. Communications occur in-line and attached to each piece of content.

Like Airtable and Trello, Monday is also quite flexible, with use cases extending from editorial calendar management to planning social media.

What we like: This is a full-featured project management tool that can be used for things beyond an editorial calendar. Given the potentialUtility across an organization, User adoption might be easier to achieve. The interface is clean and crisp. The overview functionality to see what your team is working on over the next weeks is quite useful — especially for remote teams. The communications are also easier to navigate than Trello (where comments often seem buried and are hard to follow without threaded context).

#5: SEMrush

This is a relatively new product from SEMrush. It’s meant to integrate into existing workflows of SEO-focused content marketers. It has all of the required features: A calendar view to track content progress, communications features for team collaborations, and the ability to track team progress on content items.

What we like: It’s free! That’s always helpful. The integration with SEMrush Is also extremely useful for content creators focused on SEO. Having these tools baked in saves time. Of course, this gets expensive as you start adding additional services from the company. Clearly, this is a way to pull you into the ecosystem, and then upsell you on additional services. So while we like the price, the solution is limited as far as customizability.

#6: Asana

Asana and Trello are often compared directly, with those who love Trello pointing to its customizability and those who prefer Asana highlighting its focus on teams. In our opinion, it seems like Asana is more comparable to Monday, and is also more involved in getting set up, as there’s more to learn about its interface than Trello.

The split view, which functions like panes in Slack, makes it quick to see specifics about a particular item. This interface is a bit different than the others and it takes some getting used to. But for those who like access to details, this is an informative interface.

What we like: A focus on teamwork makes Asana stand out from other project management tools. The split view, similar to Slack, makes it easier to navigate because there’s no waiting on cards to load when you click on them. The ability to quickly switch between List, Calendar, and Timeline view gives you multiple different views into your team’s current tasks and progress.

#7: MeisterTask

MeisterTask is all about task management for teams. It has a very clean interface that reflects other card-based tools. There’s not much else to say because it really is that simple! This is the tool for those who want to focus on managing task workflows without distractions.

What we like: This is very specific, but we love how each header is customizable. This is impossible on tools like Trello. The visual distinction of each column is very helpful and pleasing to the us design nerds. The simplicity is also helpful For those who don’t need a lot of bells and whistles. The focus is on task management for teams.